The Hwy 1/169 corridor in the Ely area has an average annual daily traffic of 2,600 (2011 traffic counts). Several transportation-related deficiencies have been identified on this corridor, including horizontal and vertical curves, narrow shoulders and steep roadside drops. Trees and vegetation are encroaching on sight lines, there are few turn lanes and few opportunities to safely pass. These deficiencies contribute to higher than average crash rates in the district. This project is being developed to address these deficiencies, and includes a 5.7 mile reconstruction and the addition of turn lanes and select passing zones.
Eighteen alternatives have been analyzed within the Eagles Nest Corridor. MnDOT worked closely with the Hwy 169 Task Force in the selection and evaluation of these alternatives. The following criteria was evaluated for each alternative:
- Roadway shading problems/maintenance costs
- Roadway geometrics/passing opportunities
- Property impacts (right of way needs)
- Environmental impacts (noise, wetlands, sulfide rock)
- Construction staging
- 1999/2000—the Hwy 169 Task Force was formed
- 2001—the task force published the Hwy 169 North Improvement Plan
- 2005—High Priority Projects Funds were authorized for the Hwy 169 corridor
- 2005–2011—MnDOT worked with the task force to develop and analyze 18 design alternatives for the Eagles Nest Corridor
- 2010—A Preferred Alternative (the South Route) was selected. This route was primarily on new roadway alignment.
- 2010—As part of the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process MnDOT developed a document outlining the purpose and need for the project.
- Late-2011—The cooperating agencies; the Environmental Protection Agency, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, questioned the purpose and need of the project and the significant potential environmental impacts.
- March 2012—MnDOT determined that there was significant project risk in carrying forward the preferred alternative in light of the feedback received from the initial environmental review comments.
- Summer 2012—MnDOT initiated the development of an additional alternative within the existing roadway corridor using MnDOT’s recently developed performance-based design standards.
- Summer 2014—MnDOT presented Alternative 2A and Alternative 3A.
- Winter 2015—Public comment period for the Environmental Assessment/Environmental Assessment Worksheet document.
- 2015—Alternative 3A route selected as the preferred alternative.
- 2017—Construction started